It wasn’t a chance to win $5 million.
But that didn’t stop dozens of people who had just gotten a coronavirus shot from getting in line to get another shot — one at winning $100 in lottery tickets.
A day after the state announced new incentives to get vaccinated, including a $5 million prize, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham showed up at a Santa Fe vaccination clinic to get the wheel rolling on the deal.
Acting with the enthusiasm of a game show host, the governor repeatedly spun a wheel for people who just got their first or second vaccine dose in the gym at Desert Sage Academy.
“It’s already paying off,” Lujan Grisham said between spins of the wheel, citing Wednesday data that said more than 105,000 people had registered to be in the vaccination sweepstakes game.
And more than 6,000 people have registered this week to get a vaccine — almost triple last week’s number of 2,100, said Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor. He added that doesn’t necessarily mean the chance to win prizes played a role in the jump.
“We hope the holdouts, folks who still haven’t signed up, will be encouraged by this [offer] and sign up,” he said.
New Mexico is not the only state scrambling for ways to encourage those who haven’t yet been vaccinated to get in line. California, New York and Ohio, among other states, are offering million- or multimillion-dollar prizes via lottery tickets or drawings as well.
Other states are settling for smaller goodies. Indiana gives a box of Girl Scout Cookies, while Arkansas offers a $20 lottery ticket.
New Mexico is offering a total of $10 million, as well as in-state travel packages, hunting and fishing licenses, passes to state parks and museums, and other items.
Those who sign up to participate in the sweepstakes will be part of five weekly drawings beginning in the middle of June. The drawings will pick one $250,000 winner from each of the state’s four public health regions, for a total of $1 million in cash each week.
Plus, a grand prize of $5 million will go to one person drawn from the pool of participants in the sweepstakes. The New Mexico Lottery will handle the drawings.
In New Mexico, the money comes from American Rescue Plan stimulus funding to help states contend with the coronavirus pandemic and its effects. The Governor’s Office said Tuesday the U.S. Treasury Department last week confirmed states may use stimulus funding for lotteries, cash payments and other incentive programs to boost vaccination rates.
The governor said Wednesday she hopes the new incentives push the state over the 70 percent vaccination rate. So far, 56 percent of eligible New Mexicans have been fully vaccinated.
State Republican leaders remain critical of the initiative. In a news release issued by the Senate Republican office Wednesday, Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said the governor is using the money “to rehabilitate her image amid numerous scandals and New Mexico’s anemic recovery.”
He later said, “Giving any governor the unilateral authority to dole out billions of taxpayer dollars is unconscionable and unconstitutional. It is time for Democratic leaders to stop talking and actually push back.”
Many of the people at the Desert Sage Academy vaccination site said they had not yet heard of the incentive program and did not know the governor would be on hand to spin a wheel for some of the smaller prizes.
When they found out, some said they lined up to speak with the governor, not to win a lottery ticket.
Santa Fean John Castañeda received his booster shot before winning five scratchers thanks to the governor’s spin.
“I got my shot to be safe,” he said. “But this is a good way to get people here. I think it adds some fun.”
Carmen Tucker, who initially was reluctant to get the vaccine, said she gave in Wednesday because she and her husband, Daniel, love to travel overseas. They’re planning a trip to Iceland later this summer.
She said the potential for winning prizes will “get people to come who wouldn’t come otherwise.”
Diana Bull, who received her first shot Wednesday, said there should be no question about getting a shot given the pandemic’s potential to kill.
“Everyone needs to get vaccinated,” she said.
Still, she acknowledged the financial inducement will turn some heads.
“Sometimes you need a carrot; sometimes you need a stick,” Bull said. “This is the carrot.”